By Sinan Kanatsiz, Chairman, Internet Marketing Association (IMA)

One of the trends that is most visible in the internet marketing world is the emergence of data as the main currency of the CMO. I’ve seen articles that predict the CMO has or will have more data than the CIO. This has been a big topic in the marketing press for a couple years now.

What’s the reason for this evolution? Basically, the reason is that things have changed. The way buyers learn about and choose products has been changing for more than 20 years. Ever since the advent of Seth Godin’s seminal book Permission Marketing almost 20 years ago the buyer has been steadily gaining control of the marketing cycle.

Today, buyers have taken complete control of the purchase path. They determine how quickly they will move through your sales cycle and marketers can do little to change the velocity. The places that a potential buyer gets information about your product have changed as well. Buyers now depend on family, friends, colleagues and influencers as input to their decision process as confidence in brands erodes.

This brings issues to communications professionals. Much of the data they have worked with over time is in silos. Often discrete campaign by discrete campaign. Some of the process is manual, of at least the consolidation from several systems is manual. In short, marketers lacked the data and analytics they needed to make quick and effective decisions as buyers move through the sales cycle. In a world where observing and reacting to buyer behaviors is the key to success, having slow, manually consolidated data isn’t going to meet the need.

So what’s the answer? Enter the consolidated cloud-based marketing platform. Industry analyst Gartner calls them “digital marketing hubs.” Leading vendors such as Cision, Adobe and Oracle have created marketing clouds that allow marketers to follow and react to all buyer interactions as they navigate your purchase path. The integration part of an integrated cloud brings together divergent interactions on social, though email, and on the website.

Once the marketing team has all this data in one place they can really start to understand and react to potential customer needs. They can also plan and execute campaigns that bring the content needed by the prospect at the right time and through the right channel. These systems have the ability to personalize content and deliver messages on an individual basis, critical to marketing success.

It’s a sad but true statement that if you aren’t practicing a fully integrated marketing approach, you’ll soon be losing ground to competitors who do. What used to work for marketers, frankly doesn’t any more. Marketing has moved from the old-style “interruption marketing” of advertising and branding to a new style of social, influencer and content-based marketing. The good news is that marketing tools are keeping up, and in fact, are leading the evolution to a new marketing paradigm.